Mediterranean

Week 73: The Mighty Moussaka

Normally when I attempt a recipe I halve it so I have a sane amount of food for me and him.  I’m not sure why I didn’t do it this time… This week, I have mainly eaten moussaka.

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Week 61: Spanish Omelette

Ole! Nothing warms a December teatime more than eating something foreign. And simple food always tastes better, right? I had made myself the Gammon and Peas from Nigella’s Express book, and was flicking through the rest and liked the picture.

I do like a good omelette, with this one containing potatoes I didn’t have to do oven chips to go with it. Another bonus is that because you’re meant to eat it cold it’ll do 2 days – I’m not sure if I’m supposed to make it last 2 days, but we didn’t die…

To make this for 4 (or 8 if you’re doing a load more Tapas to go with it) you will need: 225g baby new potatoes, 4 eggs, 75g flame-roasted jarred peppers, 3 spring onions, 75g manchego/cheddar cheese, butter, oil, salt & pepper. You’ll need to finely chop the onions, roughly chop the peppers, and halve the potatoes.

Also, you’ll need a small-ish heavy bottomed frying pan that can go in the oven/under the grill – non of your plastic handles here!

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I always think these look like tongues…

Depending on your grill you’ll need to turn it on so its hot enough to finish off the omelette.  My grill needs about a weeks notice before doing a round of toast so I have to turn it on really early – but you might be able turn your on when you start frying the omelette.  Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes, then drain them.  While they’re boiling grate the cheese, then whisk the eggs together in a bowl/a big jug. Throw in the peppers, onions, cheese and free potatoes, then season to taste.

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Heat 1 tsp of oil and a splash of oil in the frying pan, when it’s hot (but not crazily hot) pour the omelette mix in. Now apparently you don’t need to stir this, so didn’t. When my lover makes omelettes there’s grunting and pushing and alsorts – I quite like this sedate form of omelettry.

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After the omelette has cooked for 5 minutes move the pan under the grill to finish off.  This is instead of turning it over, which I guess would stop it being Spanish Omelette shaped.  Leave it under the grill for a few minutes until it’s pretty much set, then take it from under the grill and turn it upside-down onto a plate. If you can do it without burning yourself that would be great.

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Nigella says that the omelette will keep cooking as it cools down so you don’t need to worry if it’s a bit wobbly in the middle – I can’t comment on this as mine came out a little charred, so there’s no way that bad boy was uncooked when I turned it out.  Leave it to cool down the. Cut it into wedges.

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I even remembered to buy some salad!  I’d definitely make this again, nice and simple and really tasty – and I’ll have a crack at some other Spanish-y bits.

 

Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2007 ISBN 9780701181840)

nigella express

Week 60: Chorizo and Chickpea Stew

It was definitely the week for stew, I don’t think it stopped raining, and we wanted something hearty… We had Nigella out on the side and my lover picked this, and chickpeas are kind of hearty?

To make this for four you will need: 50g vermicelli, 500g bulgar wheat, teaspoon of cinnamon, sea salt, bay leaves, 350g chorizo, amontillado sherry, 100g soft dried apricots, 2 400g tins of chickpeas, 2 400g tins cherry tomatoes, pepper, and coriander (which I missed off)

If you use the full amount of bulgar wheat you’ll be able to feed an army, I used half the amount just for me and him and there was enough left over to feed four more.

This is really quick to make, which is most unlike a stew.  Start by warming 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a thick bottomed pan, when it’s warmed to about medium throw in the pasta and fry until they look like little bits of slightly scorched straw.

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Add the bulgar wheat and stir for two minutes then add the cinnamon, 2tsp of salt, a litre of water and two bay leaves. Bring to the boil then turn it down to the lowest heat and leave (lidded) to absorb for about 15 minutes.

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Cut the chorizo into coins and then cut them in half.  Heat a second heavy bottom pan and fry the chorizo until the orange juice runs out. Add 4 tablespoons of the sherry and let it bubble for a minute or two.  Wash the chickpeas and cut up the apricots and throw them in with the canned tomatoes, half fill each tomato tin with water, swill it round then pour it in to the pan. Turn the heat up high and bubble for 5 minutes.  I completely forgot about the water, but i don’t think it affected it much.

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By now the bulgar wheat should be done, so turn the gas off and give it a fork around to loosen it up, then serve with the stew and an artistic sprinkling of corriander.

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I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with it, but it just didn’t quite work in my mouth. I don’t like baked beans (never have, I know weird right?) and the tomatoes and chickpeas tasted a bit baked-bean-y for me. Also, it was a bit sweet for my sour tooth (I think next time I’d leave out the apricots) and I had to slum it with posh chorizo from Waitrose and they went really rubbery, and I’ve decided that I don’t like cinnamon in bulgar wheat… So it wasn’t the most successful meal I’ve ever made… But I’m sure you’ll love it!

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I thought I’d pop it in for this weeks Fiesta Friday – just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not great for a cosy winter ‘do’. Chin chin!

 

Kitchen, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2010, ISBN 9780701184605)

Nigella Kitchen

Week 44: Polenta, Beans, Kale

So the other day my lover turned to me and said “you know I will actually eat soup, just not from a mug like my parents” this after 9 years or solid meals. So I set out to make a thick soup to lull him into soup-ness before making something runny.

The recipe I chose was from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Good Things on a Plate, it looked lovely, I had everything except the beans and kale in already, and I could finally try making something with Kale after years of people telling me it’s a super-food. Word to the wise: kale definitely gives you certain super-human abilities, which aren’t for demonstrating in polite company.

Hugh says this is his take on a traditional Tuscan Peasant dish, without wanting to give away the ending, if I gave what I made to a Tuscan Peasant I’d wake up with a horse’s head in my bed.  Unlike most of the other recipes  that have gone wrong this year, I’m not entirely sure what I happened this time.

To serve four you will need olive oil (Hugh says normal oil and some really top-notch oil to drizzle afterwards), an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 200g Kale, 850ml vegetable or chicken stock (Hugh recommends home-made stock or really good quality shop bought stock, but I used oxo cubes haha), 400g tine cannellini beans, 100g quick-cooking polenta, sea salt and black pepper.

Chop the onion and the garlic, drain the beans, and strip the kale from the tough stalks; you can cut the leafs into ribbons but I didn’t.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, sweat the onions on a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and golden.

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Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the stock and the beans and bring to a simmer.  Add the kale and return to a simmer for 5 minutes until it is tender.  Stir the polenta in and return to a simmer (stir well and the polenta wont go lumpy).  Simmer for another 3 minutes until it has thickened.

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I’m pretty sure this is where I went wrong.  Maybe my polenta was too quick cooking?  Anyway, I was expecting it to be somewhere between a stew and a soup and its not what I turned out with… my lover had got bowls and spoons out, came over to look into the pan and said “well we can have that on plates” and went to get some forks.  To serve spoon it into a warmed bowl and drizzle with your good olive oil.  Et Voila:

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Not much like soup… It wasn’t very nice.  I don’t know if it was the not top-notch stock that I used, or maybe I had faulty Kale, or maybe it was just too delicately flavoured for our burly pallettes?  It’s not a dish that I’ll make again.  Sorry Hugh.

But wait, there’s more…  I didn’t fancy having half a bag of kale hanging around in case I didn’t like it, so I cooked for four.  In the book Hugh says that to re-heat this add some more stock or boiling water to break up the polenta and heat in a pan until piping hot.

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After 2 days in the fridge I didn’t do that, I broke it into chunks and heated it in a frying pan with a knob of butter, and when it was cooked all the way through I served it up with some cooked chicken from the supermarket and a big dollop of Dijon mustard.

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Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury 2012, ISBN 9781408828588)

three good things on a plate

Week 37: Mediterranean Grain Salad

This is my first attempt at a Martha Stewart recipe, from a book that’s been baffling me for years.  It was sunny again and it was demanded that I make another salad… and as a bonus this recipe is perfect for Fiesta Friday and a very tenuous contender for June’s Cheese Please (if you count parsley as a herb).

Martha suggests that this is an ideal dish to make the next time you’re invited to a pot luck party.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the car-keys party… but even if it is, bulgur wheat is a healthy alternative to pasta.

All the measurements are written in crazy measurements, so I’ve put them into grams.  This will make enough for 4 as a main course, or 8 as a side salad with something more filling.

You will need 275g Bulgur Wheat, 300g (a pack) cherry/grape tomaoes, parsley, 2 shallots, 4tbs red-wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, 120g fresh goats cheese.

Firstly put the bulgur wheat, a teaspoon of salt and a pint of boiling water into a heatproof bowl and cover with clingfilm for 30 minutes.  While the wheat is soaking half the tomatoes, mince the shallots, and roughly chop up the parsley.  The recipe calls for an actual bush of parsley but I probably put in about a handful.

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Drain the bulgur wheat really well so no water remains and put back in the bowl with the 4tbs of vinegar, 2 tbs plus 2tsp of olive oil (I’d just round it up to 3tbs), the tomatoes, shallots, and parsley, stir it all up so the oil is combined.  Next season it with some pepper.  Serve with goats cheese crumbled over the top.

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I’m not sure what I think about this salad.  I love bulgur wheat so that was good – but it really wasn’t very Mediterranean.  Maybe if it had used some sun-dried tomatoes it would have been a start… and been less vinegar-y.  I think to change the recipe I would try putting the vinegar in with the boiling water so it’s less over-powering.

One of my favourite things about doing New Recipe Night is cooking with new ingredients that have newer before darkened my kitchen counter.  This week that honour fell to the the humble shallot.  They’re pretty tricky to cut aren’t they?

This time I just used bog standard goats cheese from Chiswick Sainsbury’s, but next time I’ll head over to the cheese shop and get a better one.

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I would recommend this for a party, or a barbeque, or just a simple fiesta, but you should make it the day before and keep it in the fridge over night so the flavours blend better, and then drizzle with some fresh olive oil before fluffing it up and serving.

 

Check these out for something else to cook if Martha’s not so Mediterranean Grain Salad doesn’t tickle your fancy:

Fiesta Friday #21 http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/fiesta-friday-21/

Junes Cheese, Please! http://fromagehomage.co.uk/2014/06/02/junes-cheese-please-recipe-blog-challenge-herbs/

 

Martha Stewart’s Everyday Light, by Martha Stewart (Transworld Publishers 2011, ISBN 9780593070529)

Marthaeverydaylight

Week 30: Pasta alla Genovese

I know its a bit of a cop out, but my brain dribbled out of my ear as I chewed on the ears of my seventeenth Lindt bunny, so I chose this recipe purely because it was green.

Green just like the spring haha.  I have never cooked with Pesto before, or said the words “Ooo its got pesto in, I’ll have that”, so I thought it would be good to try something new.  And it meant I got to use the machine again…

Vroom!

As I read the ingredients list, I thought about getting garlic bread so I could pack all the carbs into one dish, but decided that the pasta and potatoes would be enough on their own.

To make this for 4 you will need: 500g floury potatoes (like King Edwards, cut up into half inch chunks), 500g linguine, 200g fine beans, 100g basil leaves, 100g grated Parmesan, 1 garlic clove, 100ml olive oil, and 100ml extra virgin olive oil.

You will need a large pan, filled with enough salted water to boil the potatoes and the pasta.  Put the potato chunks in and bring to the boil and boil for 20 minutes.

Add the pasta and boil for the length of time recommended on the packet and four minutes before the end, then throw in the beans.  Note: if you are using fresh pasta, boil the potatoes for 28-30 minutes and then put the beans in, put the pasta in so it will be cooked when everything else is done… use dried pasta.

Nigella says that for this dish you need to make the pesto yourself, in a blender!  Vroom!  While the pan is on with the potato and pasta put the basil leaves, Parmesan, garlic and oil into the mixer and blitz it until it looks like pesto… which is really hard to photograph.

Take half a cup full of the cooking water from the pan and then drain the potatoes, pasta and beans.  Off the heat return them to the pan and stir in the pesto and the cooking water and serve immediately.

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I’m not entirely sure what I did wrong; it just didn’t really taste of anything.  My friend suggested that I’d not salted the water enough (I had) and I thought maybe my Parmesan wasn’t flavour-full enough.  While it smelled amazing and looked devine it was pretty bland so I don’t know if I’ll make it again.

And I still don’t totally see what all the fuss is about with pesto!

 

Kitchen, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2010, ISBN 9780701184605)

Nigella Kitchen

Week 27: Sapori Forti

So I slightly burned this the first time round, so I had another crack at it!

It’s been a couple of months since I tried something new from my trusty Cupboard Love book, and as my lover pointed out: a while since I’ve stirred something different into some pasta.  Sapori Forti translates as Strong Flavours, and I’d been glancing at the recipe in a quizzical fashion ever since Week 9 (http://wp.me/p42Dr4-T) and when this week’s New Recipe Night crept up on me I realised I had everything in the cupboard!

To make Sapori Forti for two you will need: 200g pasta (linguine or spiralli), 1 onion (thinly sliced), 2 garlic cloves, 4 or 5 anchovy fillets, 50g black olives, 1 tbs capers, 50g raisins, 1 tbs pine nuts, 1 tbs chopped mint/oregano and some extra virgin olive oil.

First up, pop the raisins in a bowl in some warm water; while these are plumping up finely chop the onion, chop the garlic, roughly chop the capers and the olives and measure out the tablespoon of pine nuts (because you’ll only forget them later, like I did)

Heat 2tbs of normal olive oil in a fairly wide pan and fry the onion and garlic for about 5 or 10 minutes until really softened (keep stirring, but a bit of browning is OK).   Set your pasta water boiling in a different pan.

When the onion is really soft turn the heat down and add the anchovies, cook until they disintegrate and melt into the onions.  While this is melting, put your pasta into the water and cook as recommended on the packet (if you’re the sort to make your own pasta or buy that posh fresh pasta that cooks really quickly, don’t do this for a few more minutes)

After the anchovies are cooked add the olives, capers, raisins, pine nuts and herbs and remove the pan from the heat.  Give it all a good stir and add the extra virgin olive oil, it sort of loosens up and the oil picks up the combined flavours.

When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pan – fold the sauce around the pasta and serve.

So the first time I tried it I somehow blackened it to a crisp – without actually burning it – but it tasted so good I had a second bash at it, with new less charred pictures.  I’m glad I did it’s one of the tastiest things I’ve made!  Open your copy of Cupboard Love to page 28 and have it tonight!

 

Cupboard Love by Tom Norrington-Davies (Hodder & Stoughton 2005 ISBN 0 340 83525 5)

Week 26: Merzuez with Halloumi and Flame-Roasted Peppers

Here is a recipe that takes longer to say the title than it does to prepare.

This is a very simple recipe from Nigella Express, the page before my favourite Curry in a Hurry (from Week 8 http://wp.me/p42Dr4-O). To make this for four you will need 8 Merguez (or spicy sausages 340g-ish) 250g block halloumi cheese, 220g jarred flame-roasted peppers, 1 tablespoon of garlic oil.

I had  bit of a mission trying to find the ingredients; it was Monday and my usual butcher was shut.  Off to the big Sainsbury’s I went like a fool.  Sainsbury’s in Chiswick don’t sell Merguez sausages, but they sold spicy pork sausages.  I picked up a pack and went to the butcher’s counter and asked if they were like Merguez – a simple enough question – and the butcher looked at the pack and said:

“I don’t know sir, I’m not a sausage expert”

Off I went to my back-up butcher (who opens when mine is shut) and they had proper lamb Merguez, although they were quite small so I bought six… can’t have enough sausage haha!  I also had a little trouble finding garlic oil – after coming up blank in Sainsbury’s, I googled how to make my own and up popped Nigella’s website which told me that making your own garlic infused Olive Oil was actually a Botulism risk.  So I used olive oil instead.

Enough waffle!  To make this dish start off by turning your oven on to 220c/gas 7 (alter if you have a fan oven) and dust off your low-sided roasting tin.  Put the sausages in the tin:

Cut up the halloumi into 5mm slices and put them in the pan, then cut up the peppers and throw them in too.

Drizzle with oil (I only put a little on, the peppers are pretty oily) and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

While its cooking I would recommend preparing some sort of rocketty salad, or come cous cous to soak up the oil.  I forgot, but my friend made it with salad and really liked it.

When its done in the oven the halloumi should have coloured in places – my ovens pretty fierce so it burned a little, but I think that added to the flavour!

I like this, and I really liked how simple it was to make, but my lover isn’t keen on halloumi so I’m not allowed to make it again!  Can’t win them all.

 

Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2007 ISBN 9780701181840)

Week 24: Beef Kofta Curry, fluffy rice, beans & peas

That processor has corrupted me, corrupted I say.  I’m power mad, and to prove it I cracked open Jamie’s 15 minute meals… one of the many recipes that requires electricity!

I know it irks you when I say these things, but I had no idea what a puy lentil was, or that it was a different thing to the orange art-class lentil.  I couldn’t get even a sniff of a puy lentil in Hammersmith and had to go searching.  But I had the rest of the ingredients.

To make this for four you will need: 1 x 250g pack of ready-to-eat Puy Lentils, 1 heaped tsp garam masala, 400g lean mince, 3 ripe tomatoes, 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, 2 spring onions, 1 red chilli, bunch fresh coriander, 1 tsp tumeric, 1 tsp runny honey, 2 heaped tsp Patak’s Rogan Josh Curry Paste, half a tin of coconut milk, 300g basmati rice, 5 cardamom pods, 200g green or yellow beans and 200g frozen peas.  Jamie also says to use fat-free natural yoghurt, a lemon and 2 uncooked poppadoms, but I didn’t bother with those.  I’m not sure how big a bunch I was supposed to get, but Sainsbury’s sold me this:

I reckon it was too big.

After trying the last two recipes from this book I decided to ditch the frantic 15 minute malarky and calm down a bit.  To start with I scrunched together the lentils, garam masala, mince, with some salt and pepper.  It made a brain:

I had a whole Sainsbury’s fail and could only get a 500g pack of mince (the butchers was miles away in the other direction, I still feel bad cheating on him) so it made a much larger brain than was intended.  Once you have your brain, wet your hands and divide it in half and then mould each half into 6 fat fingers.  They look like mice at this point, which was the exact moment my squeamish lover chose to pop into the kitchen to see how I was going.  Oops.

At this point Jamie says you should put them in the pan, but to avoid burning everything I skipped that bit and skipped straight to the exciting blender bit.  Speed freak.

In your powerful yet sleek liquidizer put in the tomatoes, peeled ginger, spring onions, half the chilli, the coriander stalks (although not all of them if you’ve accidentally bought a tree of it) the tumeric, honey, rogan josh paste and half the tin of coconut milk.  It will look like this:

Blitz that mother down.  Vroom.  Now time to start cooking, calmly and serenely.

Put a tablespoon of oil in your large frying pan and turn the heat up high, then boil the kettle.  When the oil is hot stick the koftas in the pan, turning them when golden.  Put the rice, 2 mugs of boiling water and the cardamom pods into a medium lidded pan and the (pre-halved) beans on top.  Put the lid on.

After a few minutes, give the liquidizer another quick blast, because its fun, and then pour the mix into the frying pan with the koftas.  Bring it to the boil and then simmer.  My pans don’t have tight fitting lids, so I had to weigh the lid down to stop the bubbly rice water from going all over my hob… which looked like this:

By now, I reckon you should be about 5 minutes before the rice is done, so open the lid of the rice pan, put the frozen peas in and give it all a good stir round.  After this Jamie says you should microwave your poppadoms, but I don’t have a microwave and forgot to buy the poppadoms, so I skipped it to take pictures.

Slice the other half of the chilli and the coriander leaves to artistically scatter over the dish.  Next time I make this I won’t scatter the chilli because it was really hot and gave me the hiccups.

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This was the first recipe from this book that I have loved, and the first where my lover has said I can make it again.

The quantities are to serve four, and rather than mess around with halving all the quantities I made the curry for four and the rice for two (150g rice, 1 mug water, 100g beans & 100g peas) and froze half of it.  It froze, defrosted and re-heated really well (although the koftas fell apart and were more like chunks than mice) so I will definitely make it again.  As a bonus I can use the other half of the tin of coconut milk, the other half of the bunch of spring onions and the other half of the pack of fine beans for Nigella’s curry in a hurry (https://newrecipenight.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/week-8-curry-in-a-hurry/) – no waste and I get to process stuff, Boom!

jamie 15min

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver (Penguin 2012 ISBN: 978-0-718-15780-7)

Week 21: Aubergine, tomatoes, chickpeas

This is a dish that has completely exposed my lack of culinary knowledge.

In my mind I skipped into the kitchen to create a magical roast aubergine on a tomato-y, chickpea-y bed of loveliness.  Actually, it made a slightly spicy version of ratatouille; I had completely skimmed over the line “Like many dishes of its kind (ratatouille, for one)…” and kept the vision of the big meaty spatchcocked aubergine in my mind.

Somehow I held on to my mental image long after I cubed the aubergine… The recipe is another from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls: Three Good Things on a Plate.  I was hoping it would be as tasty as Lentils, spinach, potato (https://newrecipenight.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/week-20-lentils-spinach-potato/) without stinking my house out.

To go with the 650-700g of aubergines (egg plants), the recipe calls for sunflower/rapeseed/olive oil, a cinnamon stick, 350g cherry tomatoes, pinch of chilli flakes, a tin of chickpeas (400g drained and rinsed), 2 garlic cloves and the finely grated zest of one lemon.  As usual, I completely forgot to buy basil or mint leaves.

One thing I didn’t notice when I started cooking this at 7pm was that in total this dish takes over an hour in the oven (200c/gas 6), plus another fifteen minutes cooling time.  My lover’s force ten hunger nearly caused a disturbance to passing aircraft, and I ended up lobbing biscuits at him for the last half hour of cooking.

To start off, heat the oil and then toss the seasoned ( salt and pepper) aubergine chunks into the oil with the cinnamon stick, and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and chilli flakes, and roast for another 20 minutes.  Drain the chickpeas and chop the garlic up small and put it back in the oven for the final 10 minutes.

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Grate the lemon zest and stir it in and leave to cool for 15 minutes.  I served on warm pittas but Hugh also recommends rice and green salad (which I also forgot to buy)

I can’t tell if it was the hanger talking, but halfway through his plate of aubergine-y ratatouille my lover turned to me and said “don’t make this again.”  A bit harsh I think… it was ok, I wasn’t crazy about it, but maybe with a nice steak or some chicken/duck and a peppery salad it would be lovely.  If I make it again it will either be for my mother  or if I ever do a hot buffet.  Sorry Hugh.

 

Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury 2012, ISBN 9781408828588)